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The Moon, Cardiff, Tue 23 Jan

Hats off to the Moon for the Free For All Festival, which offers punters the opportunity to banish the January blues by discovering new music for nowt all month. Credit, too, to keytar-toting Aberdare/Cardiff oddballs Head Noise for having the guts to pay homage to maverick, absurdist, retrofuturist punks Devo. Sadly, they’re largely a cautionary tale illustrating why very few bands do.

So improved are Silent Forum that it takes me an embarrassingly long time to realise that I’ve seen them before, in support to Tall Ships at Clwb last May. Back then, they offered occasional glimpses of promise, but now they’ve really found their voice – and what a voice it is: deep, bold, declamatory and, on tracks like Limbo and especially Who’s Going To Side With Me?, utterly compelling. It belongs to Richard Wiggins – as does a stare so piercingly intense that you feel forensically examined.

Against a musical backdrop of goth-tinged 80s indie, Wiggins is a man possessed, a medium animatedly channelling his demons through the body of Ian Curtis. The older songs pale in comparison, and the set-closer serves primarily as a reminder that U2 had their roots in post-punk, but generally speaking Silent Forum can look forward to a future considerably brighter than the outlook of most of their material.

In the run-up to tonight’s show, Gindrinker’s DC Gates has hinted at the possibility of “a new item of stage wear”. A right-handed leather glove, to go with the left-handed one, perhaps? It doesn’t materialise, but that’s the only conceivable sense in which their set could be considered a letdown.

The duo’s deranged genius is showcased most potently by the long, sinister address to an object of affection about her partner, during which DC repeatedly insists “That man’s no good”, claiming that said man looks at her as if she’s “a handful of cold beans” or “a slug on the carpet”. As attempts to woo go, it’s unlikely to be printed in a Hallmark card any time soon.

Headliners DUDS have garnered some attention by becoming the first British band to sign to Castle Face, the garage label run by Thee Oh Sees’ John Dwyer, but that affiliation gives little clue as to what they actually sound like: a twitchy, itchy take on post-punk that imagines James Brown shivering convulsively in early 1980s New York. To these ears, it’s an idiosyncratic and distinctive style all of their own – though my companions are quick to namecheck 80s avant-punk outfits like Stump and Bogshed.

Jostling together shoulder to shoulder on the Moon’s narrow stage in grey scrubs, DUDS bring an injection of energy – not least the moustachioed brass player who spends the whole set jogging on the spot. The songs are staccato and short, often ending with abrupt but weirdly neat anti-climaxes. Colin Newman of Wire and Marc Riley are both fans (indeed, it was the latter who first drew them to Dwyer’s attention) and so, by the end, are we all, suitably refreshed by their invigorating off-kilter rhythms as much as by drinking the bar dry. File them next to Jane Weaver and Gnod as being among Manchester’s finest exports.


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